Can you drink expired bottled orange juice?

Orange juice is a breakfast staple for many people. It’s tasty, nutritious, and easy to grab on-the-go. But what if you discover an unopened bottle lurking in the back of your fridge past its expiration date? Is it still safe to drink? Here’s a comprehensive look at whether expired bottled orange juice is OK to consume.

How long does unopened orange juice last?

First, let’s review how long commercially packaged orange juice stays fresh:

  • Unopened shelf-stable (not refrigerated) orange juice typically lasts 1 to 2 weeks past its “best by” date.
  • Unopened refrigerated orange juice is safe to drink about 1 to 3 weeks past its printed expiration date, as long as it was continuously refrigerated.
  • Once opened, orange juice only lasts 3-5 days in the fridge before spoiling.

These durations are general guidelines, but orange juice can sometimes last a bit longer if well stored. Trust your senses – if it smells fine and tastes OK, it should be safe to consume.

Reasons expired OJ can make you sick

So why does orange juice have an expiration date if it may last longer? There are a few reasons it can spoil and become unsafe to drink over time:

  • Microbial growth – Yeasts and mold can grow in acidic orange juice over time. This spoils the taste and can cause foodborne illness.
  • Vitamin C breakdown – Vitamin C content degrades in orange juice stored too long. While not a safety issue, nutritional value declines.
  • Off-flavors – The flavor can become unpleasant or bitter with age due to oxidation.
  • Container leakage – Plastic bottles or cartons may eventually leak and allow microbes or oxygen to contaminate the juice.

Expired bottled orange juice that’s foul smelling, fizzy, moldy, orslimy should not be consumed.

Safety tips for expired orange juice

To minimize risk from drinking expired orange juice:

  • Check the bottle carefully for any signs of leaks, puffing, or damage.
  • Give the juice a sniff test – it should not smell unpleasant or strange.
  • Inspect the juice closely before drinking – it should look normal and not separated, chunky, or have mold.
  • Take a small sip to check for off or bitter flavors – if it tastes bad, don’t drink it.

Also keep in mind:

  • Don’t drink expired juice with pulp, which can spoil faster.
  • Avoid serving expired juice to pregnant women, infants, and people with weakened immune systems who are more vulnerable to foodborne illness.
  • Cut open cartons after pouring to check for hidden mold before fully committing to drinking it.

How long past expiration is orange juice still good?

So when is expired orange juice definitely bad and unsafe to drink? Here are some cut-off guidelines:

Orange Juice Type Time After Expiration Date
Refrigerated orange juice Up to 3-4 weeks
Shelf-stable orange juice Up to 1-2 months
Previously opened orange juice 3-5 days

Again, these are general guidelines – if orange juice is properly stored, looks and smells normal, it may last a bit beyond these timeframes. The important thing is using your best judgment along with the expiration date to determine safety.

Does expired orange juice go bad?

Yes, eventually expired orange juice does spoil and become unsafe to drink. The signs that OJ has gone bad include:

  • Mold growing anywhere in the bottle or carton
  • Fizzing, fermentation, or bubbling when you open the container
  • A rancid, bitter, or unpleasant smell
  • An abnormal appearance – separation, chunkiness, sliminess, etc.
  • An off taste that is vinegar-like, bitter, or unpleasant

Orange juice that displays any of these signs should be discarded. Consuming spoiled OJ can potentially cause food poisoning resulting in nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Can expired orange juice make you sick?

Drinking expired bottled orange juice that has truly gone bad can make you sick. Here’s why:

  • Bacterial growth – Bacteria like salmonella, listeria, and E. coli can grow over time, especially if the bottle or carton was opened.
  • Mold – Molds produce toxic byproducts called mycotoxins that can cause illness.
  • Fermentation – Yeasts ferment orange juice sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide, creating risks from alcohol content and exploding bottles.

Consuming orange juice well past its prime that contains heavy microbial growth puts you at risk for foodborne illness. Symptoms usually appear within 12-48 hours and can include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps and diarrhea
  • Headache and fever
  • In severe cases – bloody stool, muscle weakness, and confusion

Seek medical treatment if you have severe symptoms or if illness lasts more than 3 days. Notify authorities if two or more people got sick after drinking from the same expired orange juice container.

Tips for storing orange juice correctly

To maximize freshness and shelf life of orange juice:

  • Buy small containers – Once opened, OJ deteriorates rapidly. Smaller bottles or cartons ensure it’s consumed quicker.
  • Refrigerate promptly – Chill unopened shelf-stable OJ within 2 weeks of purchase. Refrigerate opened bottles immediately.
  • Check “sell by” dates – Choose the container with the farthest expiration date when shopping.
  • Store sealed containers properly – Keep refrigerated orange juice in the back of the fridge furthest from the door.
  • Keep air out – Reseal containers tightly and pour unused juice into smaller bottles to minimize air exposure.

With proper refrigerated storage and an airtight, undamaged container, unopened orange juice can maintain quality and safety for at least 1-3 weeks past its printed expiration date.

Does freezing extend the shelf life of orange juice?

Freezing is an effective way to extend the shelf life of orange juice significantly past the expiration date. Here’s how freezing preserves OJ:

  • Slows microbial growth – Freezing temperature inhibits bacteria, yeasts, and mold growth.
  • Retains nutrients – Vitamin C and other nutrients are better preserved.
  • Minimizes chemical changes – Freezing reduces oxidation and off-flavor development.

To freeze orange juice:

  • Leave 2 inches of headspace in rigid plastic bottles or freezer-safe cartons to allow for expansion.
  • Squeeze air out and seal lids tightly.
  • Label containers with date and contents.
  • Freeze below 0°F for up to 3-6 months.

Thaw frozen orange juice in the fridge before drinking. Freeze juice concentrates for up to 1 year. Discard any thawed juice that smells or looks abnormal.


Drinking expired orange juice can be risky business if it’s gone truly bad. However, unopened, properly stored OJ may still be safe and tasty for up to 1-3 weeks past its printed date. Check for off odors, textures, or container damage before drinking expired bottled juice. Discard any orange juice that smells or looks funky to be on the safe side. And freezing orange juice can greatly prolong its shelf life while preserving taste and nutrition.

With a little care and common sense, that forgotten bottle in the fridge may still provide a refreshing and nutritious glass of orange juice even past its prime. Trust your senses, follow proper storage methods, and cautiously enjoy this breakfast favorite before its expiration date forces you to toss it out.

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